Scott Christenson, another one of the keynote speakers at Best Practices, spoke about different ways in which we can encourage each other in the Church.
The first is cheer encourgement. We can let each other know, “You can do it!” We can tell people, “Great job!” and “Congratulations!” when we see our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ doing well in the work of the Lord.
The second is support encouragement. Things do not always go the way we expect them to, but we can be there to say “Hang in there” and “Do not give up.” God has got this and it is not all up to us. It is up to him to complete the mission he has planned.
The third is challenge encouragement. Sometimes people need a little push, a little nudge in the direction God wants them to go. We can help people to see the big picture and see that maybe it is time for them to do something new or take a risk that God has in mind for them. Point people to possibilities in ministry they may not have thought of before.
Think of ways you can be an encourager in these three ways this week and keep this verse in mind:
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Dan Shepmann, one of the keynote speakers at Best Practices in Phoenix in February, talked about these verses:
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. —Matthew 11:29-30
Shepmann brought an actual yoke to show. It does not look easy or light at first glance, but in the hands of our Master, it is.
Yokes put on oxen are controlled by the farmer, the Master of the ox.The ox yoked to the Master cannot go anywhere without the Master guiding and directing. This makes the work easier for the ox. With Christ as our guide, we learn how to maneuver through the treacherous portions of life, as he did on the way to the cross for our salvation.
One translation of these verses says that the Master’s yoke “fits well.” It is not a “one size fits all” sort of approach. Our weight, our mission, that is placed upon us by our Lord is custom designed for us. So being yoked to our Savior is not something to struggle with, but something to hold on to and to celebrate the gifts God has given you to be the bearer of this yoke.
And our Savior promises to be gentle. His gentle hands on the reigns make our work for him manageable and doable and pleasing to him and to ourselves. In this light, what a privilege it is to “take his yoke upon us.”
We all know the song about the 12 days of Christmas that starts, “On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me … ” But do we really celebrate the full 12 days of Christmas in our homes? Our society tends to want to end the celebration on the 25th. But our church year calendar has the 12 days of the Christmas SEASON built into it.
The 12 days on the church year calendar span the time from Christmas Day to Epiphany (Jan. 6), when we celebrate the arrival of the wise men to worship Jesus.
So we as followers of Christ and followers of the church year calendar should do all we can to enjoy the entire 12 days of Christmas and not pack everything up on the night of the 25th.
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We are in the green season of Pentecost now.
Now that we are at the beginning of what is called “the long green season of Pentecost.” I find it beneficial to review for myself the significance of the color of this season and the colors of all the seasons of the Church Year.
Whether you know it or not, church tradition has established colors to correspond with each season of the Church Year. Currently, we are in the “green” season of the Sundays after Pentecost (which will end in November.) Green is a symbol of growth and maturity. This is a time for us to grow in and become more grounded in our faith. Green helps us to remember that Christ is the Vine and we are the branches, so we need to continually rely on him through prayer, worship, devotion and Bible study. We are always to be lifelong learners of faith. Let this be your mindset and mood during these weeks.
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Church staffers are meeting at the coffee shop to read the Word of God more and more.
Recently in Outreach magazine, William Vanderbloemen, co-author of Next: Pastoral Succession That Works, identified five current trends in church staffing that I found interesting and from which we as those who serve the church can learn. Here are my thoughts on each:
- Out with the specialist, in with the leaders. No longer do churches need someone who is highly specialized in one area. What is more in demand is someone who can effectively lead a group and motivate people to action.
- The succession conversation is vital. There is much more discussion within churches about the direction in which ministry is going and who will be taking over the role of pastor to guide the church in that particular direction. There is a more hands-on approach within congregations as to who will be called for pastoring the next generation of believers.
- Experts on millennials are in high demand. As much as I don’t want to admit it, we as a church must understand more fully what drives the millennial generation of believers. We cannot “do church” the same old way anymore. We need input in church planning from those who have a handle on reaching out to Christian millennials in meaningful ways to them.
- Personal touch is paramount. There needs to be a sense that the church staff cares about each member individually. People need to be treated like family and not like numbers on an attendance sheet. Members recognize the difference and will run out the door if they are not welcomed warmly.
- Impersonal services are being outsourced. Like in many businesses these days, such things as accounting and maintenance are being outsourced so that the church staff can be more involved in the life of the congregation and not stuck behind a desk combing through paperwork. The church is about reaching out to people with Christ, and that is done most effectively face-to-face and in person, with church workers in homes and hallways and parks and coffee shops, wherever two or three are gathered in Christ’s name.
As I ponder these trends as a product developer of church resources, I realize even more clearly that our materials need to be practical to get people active, they need to be forward-thinking, they need to meet the needs of the growing population, they must have a personal touch and they must provide a sense of care from the faith community. I eagerly await what the Spirit sends my way as I brainstorm new avenues to spreading the Gospel message in the church through the written word in this ever-changing time.
I saw the movie Risen in the theater a couple weeks ago, and was especially struck by how the actors portrayed the disciples’ individual reunions with their Savior. There was utter joy on their faces at seeing their Master again and Jesus responded with pure exuberance at seeing them again as they embraced one another. The movie’s portrayals of these interactions spoke to the depth of the bonds that Jesus had with his disciples and the eagerness they all had to be together.
He is risen indeed!
It reminds me that Jesus desires the same sort of relationship with me and with each one of us. But I find myself not as quick to respond as the disciples did. I moan a little when I wake up on some Sundays before heading to church. I hesitate to pray before a meal or at bedtime, because I feel uncomfortable about engaging in the activity.
But worship and prayer should be something that come naturally to us as Christians. They should be things that we crave and that we are eager to involve ourselves in. Why? Because they give us more personal time with our best Friend, Jesus. They help us to grow closer to him, to build a stronger relationship with our Lord who only wants to be with us and love us. Continue reading →
I am always fascinated by the attraction to Easter egg hunts. Why do we get so excited about them? I know that lots of parishes hold them every year, and even the Easter Egg Roll at the White House on Easter Monday is a huge event with thousands in attendance.
I thought to myself, “What does an Easter egg hunt entail?” First, there is the act of first dying the eggs in various colors for the hunt. Then there is the hiding of the eggs, and finally the finding.
Then it hit me: the Easter egg hunt is a microcosm of what happened that first Easter.
First, Christ died for us and drops of his red blood fell to the ground, much the same way dye drops onto the pure white of the egg. After Jesus dies, he is hidden, buried in a tomb behind a large Continue reading →
A stone bass relief of a Lamb of God image
In an article “Shape of the Future” in the January 23, 2016 edition of World magazine, essayist Andrée Seu Peterson talks about how Christ chose to lay down his life for us on the cross during the Jewish Feast of Passover. It is no coincidence then that Jesus is referred to many times in Scripture as the Lamb of God and the Passover Lamb, who was sacrificed for the sins of the people.
Interestingly enough, Peterson points out, two other Jewish feasts tie perfectly to the events that follow in the story of Christ. The Resurrection, like the Firstfruits Feast, occurs next, and then the Continue reading →